Amid persisting doubts on the Department of Education’s ability to carry out the upcoming school year, a House panel on Thursday nudged the agency to consider postponing the scheduled August 24 opening of classes in the country.
There’s a law permitting such deferment anyway, Committee on Basic and Education and Culture chairman, Pasig City lone district Rep. Roman Romulo pointed out.
“Lahat naman tayong Pilipino gusto natin magpatuloy yung edukasyon, pero ang gusto natin yung quality of education ay kasama doon…Yung totoo talaga kulang ano? (All of us Filipinos want education to continue, but we need quality of education to come with it…but in reality it’s a bit lacking right?),” Romulo told DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito Umali during a virtual hearing of the House panel.
“Hindi namin sinasabi na wala kayong ginagawa, nakikita namin na nagtatrabaho talaga ang DepEd. Pero minsan, kahit na magtrabaho nang magtrabaho, talagang kulang pa rin ang panahon. Baka pwede nyo ring pag-isipan, kapag hindi talaga handa, eh yung batas na bago na binibigyan naman kayo ng palugit na panahon (We’re not saying that you’re not working, we see that DepEd is working hard. But even if you work hard, sometimes there’s just isn’t enough time. If you really won’t be ready, why not think about the new law that could provide you with more time),” he said.
“Parang hirap na hirap tayo, baka mamaya sayang ang pagod ng DepEd. Tapos hilaw rin pala mangyayari. Sayang talaga, Usec. Umali. Alam ko namang hindi mo madedesisyunan yan ngayon, pero hopefully sana nadi-discuss din ng DepEd internally (It appears to have been a struggle for DepEd and all efforts could go to waste. We might still be unprepared. That would be a waste, Usec. Umali. I know you won’t be able to decide on this today, but hopefully it’s being discussed internally by DepEd),” Romulo said.
The dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the need to implement distance-learning methods in lieu of traditional face-to-face classes prompted DepEd to move the opening of classes for school year 2020-21 from the usual June to August 24.
This is to comply with Republic Act (RA) No.7977, which states that the given school year “shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.”
But only last July 17, President Duterte signed into law RA No.11480, which gave him the power to move or reschedule the start of the school year in an event of a state of emergency or state of calamity. The Romulo panel was instrumental in the timely enactment of the measure.
“Kaya namin ipinasa yang batas na yan para mayroon kayong pagkakataon para maisaayos. Baka lang masyadong tight. They can start September or October, yung mas handa lang (The reason why we passed this was to give you the chance to be better prepared. The schedule might be too tight. They can start September or October, when they are more ready),” the Pasig solon said in an almost pleading tone.
During the Thursday hearing or a little over two weeks before the resumption of classes, congressmen were still demanding answers from DepEd officials regarding the lack of funds for the printing of self-learning modules and the way by which these modules would be delivered to students’ homes.
While Romulo was very mindful with his words regarding the Education department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the same cannot be said for Deputy Minority Leader, Marikina 1st district Rep. Bayani Fernando.
“We will spend our limited resources on this, and it will amount to nothing (once we go back to face-to-face instruction),” said the outspoken former Marikina mayor and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman.
According to Fernando, the better option might be not to push through with distance learning at all. “I do not trust that DepEd will deliver something worthwhile.”